Thursday, July 11, 2024

Scoured Stars Adventure Path: Index

This page will collect links to each installment of my campaign journal for the Scoured Stars Adventure Path (Starfinder 1st Edition). 

Spoiler Warning: Unsurprisingly, these posts contain numerous spoilers for the AP. 

  • Session Zero and Part 1: Meet our heroes; "The Commencement."
  • "The First Mandate" [coming soon!]
  • "In Pursuit of the Scoured Past"
  • "On the Trail of History"
  • "Reclaiming the Time-Lost Tear"
  • "The Scoured Stars Invasion"
  • "Truth of the Seeker"
  • "Treading History's Folly"
  • "Heart of the Foe"
  • "Honorbound Emissaries"
  • "The Herald's War"
  • "Fate of the Scoured God"
Other useful links for reference:

A Brief History of Multiclassing

To multiclass or not to multiclass? That is very good question, and not an easy one to answer.

Multiclassing, or advancing in more than one character class, has been implemented in many different ways over the long history of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as in other RPGs derived from it.  Multiclassing is a way to expand your character's abilities, but there is always a price or drawback to doing so, usually involving slowing (or even halting) advancement in your other class(es). 

Multiclassing in D&D

In 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D, you had to choose whether to multiclass when you first created your character. Only certain combinations of classes were allowed (determined by your race), and except for elf fighter/magic-user/thieves, you were limited to two classes. The costs of multi-classing were that your XP were divided between your classes, and your hit points were averaged between your classes. Typically, a multiclass character lagged behind their single-classed companions by a level or two (or more, if triple-classed), and had fewer Hit Dice and HP as a result. Also, in those editions, some classes cost more XP to advance in, so multi-classed magic-users lagged behind even more than usual. 

In 3rd Edition D&D, the choice to multiclass was made when you advanced to a new level. Each level you advanced was one level in one class, so your levels in all classes added up to your overall character level. You had to keep your classes within one level of each other or take a penalty to XP, but you ignored that limit for your "favored class" (which was determined by race, or was your first class for humans). This method was well integrated with the introduction of feats and skill ranks based on level, and allowed for the introduction of prestige classes. These special classes were slightly more powerful than a base class, but required characters to meet certain prerequisites before entering them (which could not be met before 6th level at minimum, and sometimes much higher). They otherwise used the multiclassing rules, and ignored favored class limitations.

Multiclassing in 3E (and the later v.3.5 revised rules) allowed for a more customized approach to character concepts. Some adventurers would split their levels fairly evenly between their two (or more) paths. Others might only take a level or two in another class (informally called "dipping a class") to pick up an entry-level ability, such as new armor and weapon proficiencies, or a few useful low-level spells. But every level in one class slowed progression in all others you took, which delayed access to higher-level abilities. Casters in particular sacrificed a significant amount of power by slowing down their spell progression. To offset this, a few prestige classes were designed to allow spellcasters to progress in caster level, but not their other level-based class features. And one prestige class, the mystic theurge, attempted to make advancing in two spellcasting classes a more viable option, with mixed results.

(I did not play much 4th Edition D&D, so don't recall how multiclassing worked in that version of the game, or even if it was an option at all.)

In 5th Edition D&D, multiclassing became an optional rule. This iteration of the game keeps the idea of character level equaling the total of your class levels, but adds prerequisites of minimum scores in the new class's key ability score(s), and has some special rules for acquiring spell slots that are shared between spellcasting classes. Prestige classes were removed from the game, though a few survive (in theme, at least) as subclasses.

Multiclassing in Other d20 Games

Most of my gaming experience these days is with Pathfinder and Starfinder, so with one exception, I'll be focusing on them for the rest of this column.

D20 Modern, which was based on the v.3.0 rules, made multiclassing central to every character's career. All characters started in one of six base classes (one focused on each ability score) for their first few levels, then chose an advanced class to distinguish themselves from other characters. I played very little d20 Modern (and only ever as a GM), but the core assumption that every character would multiclass was rather unique and memorable.

Pathfinder First Edition was a direct offshoot of D&D v.3.5, so its rules for multiclassing and prestige classes were almost identical to that game. The primary change was removing the XP penalty for uneven levels. Instead, your favored class (now always your first class) gave 1 bonus HP or skill rank at each level, which gave a new incentive for staying single-classed. Some classes were adjusted to avoid "front-loading" their class features, making it harder to cherry-pick signature abilities by "dipping."  All classes were given powerful capstone abilities at their highest levels, which could only be acquired by single-classed characters. (Pathfinder characters were strictly limited to 20th level.) Finally, some class options and feats could grant a few of the low-level abilities of another class (such as a few minor spell-like abilities, a bonus combat feat, etc.), which could help avoid the need to multiclass.

Starfinder was derived from Pathfinder 1E, but introduced many new rules of its own. It, too, allows multi-classing by choosing one class to advance at each level. However, it provides even more incentives to follow a single class. Most notably, spellcasting progression is slower in Starfinder than Pathfinder, so multiclassing is even more of a sacrifice for casters than in Pathfinder. Most other classes will quickly fall behind in effectiveness, too, particularly the operative and solarian, whose damage output scales with their level in the class. If a character does multiclass, it's strongly advised that they wait until after they've reached 3rd level in their first class, because that's when every class gains Weapon Specialization, which adds bonus damage to weapons with which they are proficient.

Starfinder also offers a new alternative to multi-classing: Archetypes replace some class features at specific levels, but give new abilities instead. This may cause the character to lose or delay access to some class features, or it may simply take the place of a class option like a soldier's bonus feat or an operative exploit. For casters, they typically have fewer spells known at their highest spell levels but their access to those levels isn't delayed. Overall, you retain the full benefits of your class level for purposes of level-based effects and access to most higher-level abilities. Archetypes are also not specific to any one class, but some have prerequisites, particularly if they expand upon the uses for a given skill or proficiency, or modify spellcasting. Finally, unless the GM adopts an optional rule, characters are limited to one archetype (or one per class, if multiclassed).

In Pathfinder Second Edition, multiclassing strongly resembles Starfinder's archetype rules, but you only ever advance in level in one class. However, when you get a new class feat, you can choose to spend it on an archetype dedication feat, which gives some minor initial benefit and allows you to spend future feats on that archetype's feats. Multiclass archetypes give you some (but never all) of the abilities of another class. Other archetypes are unique unto themselves, and may focus on a fighting style, altered ways to cast magic, new ways to use one or more specific skills, or some other theme. (Numerous 1E prestige classes have reappeared as archetypes in 2E, but without the multiclass tag.) Much like in Starfinder, archetypes may be taken by members of any class who meet the prerequisites for the dedication feat, but they are more flexible because you can invest as much or as little in the archetype as you want. There are limits to how many archetypes a character can take, because you can't take another dedication feat until you have taken at least two of that archetype's other feats. That usually means that you can't take a second dedication until at least 8th level, or a third before 16th. (A rare few archetypes include some feats that replace skill feats instead of class feats, allowing faster acquisition.)

When Starfinder Second Edition is released (in playtest at this year's GenCon, and in full next year), it will use the same game engine as Pathfinder 2E, making it fully compatible with that system. Presumably this means that multiclassing will follow the same archetype rules.

My Own History with Multiclassing

In pretty much all of the RPGs I've mentioned above, I prefer to remain single-classed in order to get faster access to the higher-level abilities of my character's first class. There have, of course, been some notable exceptions:

D&D 3E: I once played a fighter who multiclassed entirely for story-based reasons. He took a couple levels of ranger when the party started doing a lot of cross-country travel, and later took some levels in psychic warrior because the campaign's overall story arc involved the emergence of psionic powers among the oppressed classes in a tyrannical empire. I eventually regretted taking so many classes, because while he had an amazing Fortitude save from stacking three martial classes, his Will lagged behind too much, even after taking Iron Will.

At the other extreme, a player in one of my 3E campaigns created a cleric of the god of magic, who multiclassed into wizard. She didn't initially intend to aim for mystic theurge, but once she did, she also picked up a level of loremaster because that class was more interesting than a third wizard level would be. Out of all the characters that I've ever played or GMed, she had the most classes, at four (all by 9th level).

Pathfinder 1E: I have built a handful of characters with the intention of qualifying for a prestige class as soon as possible, including a brawler/living monolith and a rogue/shadowdancer, and a diviner who I never played enough to reach harrower levels. Beyond those, I can only think of four characters offhand who have multiclassed:

  • A rogue who took a level of cleric out of thanks to his god for granting him enough luck to survive that long. He later retrained that level back to rogue when it became clear that he could serve his god better by being a better rogue.
  • A cleric of Calistria, who multiclassed into rogue as soon as he could. He was originally built as part of an all-cleric party, and they needed to diversify their skill set at 2nd level. (One multiclassed into fighter; the rest stayed single-classed clerics.)
  • A ranger who dipped fighter to gain heavy armor proficiency and some bonus feats. 
  • A hunter/rogue whose teamwork feats plus sneak attack made for very effective flanking tactics with her animal companion.

Starfinder 1E: Out of my 14 Starfinder Society characters, only one is multi-classed. Shortly after acquiring a creature companion, my gnome envoy took a level of xenodruid mystic so that he could speak with animals, like his ancestors once did. That made his companion easier to control, and allowed him to use his language-dependent abilities to help it as well as his PC allies.

I have more characters who have taken archetypes: 

  • An explorer operative who took the Starfinder forerunner archetype. Her specialization and archetype compliment each other nicely (both do interesting things with Culture and Survival skills). I also already had a high-level operative combat monster, so I felt that sacrificing a few exploits to further differentiate this one was perfectly acceptable.
  • A phrenic adept whose species communicates primarily via telepathy, but very slowly (using telepathic message). This archetype solved that problem by giving him limited telepathy (on par with other telepathic PC species), and gave some interesting new abilities as well. The character is a mechanic, so suffers less from investing in an archetype than some other classes would.
  • A soldier who became a powered armor jockey. (His archetype starts at 6th level, which he only very recently reached, so I am still waiting to see how effective it is.)
  • Another soldier who became a Star Knight.
Pathfinder 2E: Out of 9 Pathfinder Society 2E characters, I have 4 with archetypes (only one of them a multiclass archetype):
  • A bookish (but still very social) sorcerer who became a linguist. 
  • An investigator with the ancient elf heritage, which gives a free multiclass dedication at 1st level. (Normally those are 2nd-level feats.) He took rogue, which provided a few more trained skills to fill in gaps in his already diverse knowledge base. 
  • A fighter who took the mauler archetype, which focuses on big, two-handed weapons.
  • A rogue who took the juggler archetype because of her background as a circus performer.
The release of the Remastered rules last year means that I will eventually be rebuilding these characters, but I will most likely keep the archetypes they have. The first two have classes that did not appear in Player Core, but that I expect to see in Player Core 2, which releases later this summer. The only archetypes in Player Core were the multiclass ones for that book's classes, so I also have to wait to see how many other archetypes get Remastered in the new book before I rebuild my linguist and mauler. The juggler archetype is from an Adventure Path, so I don't expect that to ever get the Remastered treatment, but will continue to exist as-is.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Scoured Stars Adventure Path: Session Zero and Part 1

Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Scoured Stars Adventure Path. 

See the Scoured Stars Adventure Path: Index page for links to all of my campaign journal blog posts for this AP. 

Earlier this year, Paizo released the Scoured Stars Adventure Path, which repackages the primary story arc from Season 1 of Starfinder Society into a level 1-15 campaign. This story line sees the Starfinder Society struggling to recover from a recent disaster: the loss of the majority of their ships and personnel in a massive expedition to the mysterious Scoured Stars system. Over the course of the twelve adventures that make up this AP, the PCs start as newly trained recruits but quickly become central to the Society's investigations of what happened in the Scoured Stars, their return to the system to rescue any survivors, and the resulting conflict with an aggressive new enemy that intends to reclaim the system for themselves.

I have played all twelve of the original Starfinder Society scenarios that make up this "metaplot" arc, and GMed a few of them myself. Some of them are among my favorite organized play experiences, so this book was an easy sell for me. Some of the players in my home group have played many of them as well, but none of us have played them in any coherent order with the same characters throughout, so much of this treatment will still be novel to them.

We had a "session zero" to work out characters a few weeks ago. For the AP, I decided to allow most of the species on the "always available" list for Society play, minus a few species that were first introduced during this arc, or who were first encountered in later seasons. This still allowed for a very unusual mix of characters, and the resulting party was made up of species that nobody in our group had played before. Our heroes are:

  • Sasha, borai maraquoi, envoy, bouncer; ship's captain. This character's concept was inspired by the "space monkey mafia" line from Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." She is a borai who used to be a maraquoi in life. This isn't one of the standard choices for the undead borai, so we decided that the species trait she would retain was prehensile tail. 
  • Gambit, hanakan, evolutionist, street magician; ship's gunner. Hanakan are magical raptor-like aliens who normally distrust and avoid technology, but Gambit is a (literally) shocking exception: a mechanics evolutionist, who becomes part robot as they mutate during combat.
  • Zzyssa, hanakan, vanguard, personal trainer; ship's pilot. Zzyssa is a little more typical of their species, except for the fact that they're a Small species filling the the front line/tank role. 
  • Sssami Kuppa, ikeshti, enhanced technomancer, tinker; ship's engineer. Having survived his species' brutal mating cycle, Sssami left Akiton to seek his fortune on a less impoverished world. 
Sasha (L) and Gambit (R)

Our group frequently play characters who all learn an unusual language they can all use when they wish to talk amongst themselves without being understood by outsiders. For the Against the Aeon Throne AP, it was Eoxian (common in the Pact Worlds, not so much in Azlanti space). This time, with two hanakan PCs, they choose that species' native language, Akan.

This past weekend, we started the campaign proper by playing the first adventure, "The Commencement." In this adventure, the PCs have just finished their training as Starfinders, which has been accelerated due to the urgent need for more field agents. They are asked to perform some tasks for the leaders of the four of the most prominent factions (Acquisitives, Dataphiles, Exo-Guardians, and Wayfinders). 

In the original scenario, the Acquisitives mission involves a junk-cycle race that, in practice, frequently runs much longer then the other missions due to the number of skill checks and NPCs involved. For the AP, this was replaced with a starship combat from another scenario, which introduces an NPC who will reappear later in the AP. Starship combat is not my group's favorite subsystem of the rules, as it is frequently time-consuming, and characters who aren't pilots or gunners are regularly overshadowed. With this in mind, I decided that we would try the narrative starship combat rules in Starfinder Enhanced. These were new to us, because they aren't used in Society play, but for an AP, GMs have much more latitude to make changes for their own games. These rules promised to make combats more fun because they were vastly simplified and because every crew role has a more equal opportunity to contribute to victory. 

This adventure's starship combat was an honorable duel rather than a deadly encounter, so it made for a good test for the rules, before the stakes get higher in later missions. This first trial proved to be not just a resounding success, but a quick and flawless victory! The enemy ship failed its skill roll to attack, while the PCs had large enough success margins on their checks to force a surrender after one round. It took much longer to explain the (fairly simple) rules than to play out the combat. I don't expect the PCs to ever have it that easy in the future, but it was definitely more fun to run and play than the standard starship combat rules, which are my and my group's least favorite part of the game--especially when both sides are so evenly matched that the battle becomes a tedious slog of attrition.

None of the other three missions were nearly that easy, but they performed well on them, only achieving less than complete success on one (recruiting a hacker for the Dataphiles by faking their death). However, they did well enough to not lose out on any rewards.

Monster hunt in a warehouse intended for conversion into the Exo-Guardians' new base.

My mini for the feather stalker, a crinoid-like alien.

All my players seemed to enjoy the game a great deal, and are looking forward to the rest of the AP. Apart from GMing occasional PFS (1E) and SFS scenarios, this is the first campaign I've run in a few years. I've definitely been missing being in the GM's seat for a long-term game, so I'm excited to be running this one.

Next time: "The First Mandate," in which our heroes try to impress some dignitaries at a gala while helping out with security for the event. 

*****

Conversion Notes: For those who are interested, here is the Honorbound's stat block, converted for narrative starship combat following the guidelines in Starfinder Enhanced:

HONORBOUND (TIER 1)

Average DC 11; Hard DC 16

HP 5; Threshold 2

Skill Bonus +7

The Honorbound has no Special Abilities. Yuluzak will surrender after his ship has been reduced to 2 HP or less.

And here are the stat blocks for the party's options at this Tier:

DRAKE (TIER 2)
Average DC 13; Hard DC 18
HP 5
Skill Modifiers +1 to any three checks per round 
 
PEGASUS (TIER 2)
Average DC 13; Hard DC 18
HP 5
Skill Modifiers +1 to any two checks per round; +2 Computers; +1 Piloting

Note that the amount of simplification required for the narrative starship combat rules makes the differences between these two models' armor, weapons, and shields largely irrelevant unless they deviate significantly from the tier's norm. This is a significant change from the standard starship combat rules, where the Pegasus excels in speed, maneuverability, and sensors, but the Drake has heavier weapons and defenses. Here, the only real distinction between the two are the skill modifiers from their computers, sensors, and thrusters. (IIRC, my group chose the Drake this time out because they could use its skill bonuses on any of their checks.) At the highest tiers, the Pegasus will outperforms the Drake in all ways thanks to its superior computers and thrusters giving it more generous skill bonuses.

*****

[Edited 7/11/2024 to add the spoiler warning, a link to the Index page, and stat blocks for the Drake and Pegasus.]

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Tome of Beasts and Freeport


For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index. 

The Tome of Beasts is a collection of new monsters for D&D Fifth Edition published by Kobold Press. A diverse selection of monsters from that bestiary are showcased in the Book of Lairs from the same publisher. I first encountered the Book of Lairs in a used bookstore, and found it intriguing enough to seek out the Tome of Beasts


Tome of Beasts

At 430 pages, this creature collection is too large to give an in-depth treatment in a single blog post, but I wanted to highlight some content that seems especially appropriate for campaigns set in the World of Freeport. 

Several monster entries reference Kobold Press's Midgard campaign setting, but these monsters can be used in any D&D setting with minimal changes. For example, one of the new languages introduced here is Void Speech, which is spoken by creatures originating in, or influenced by, "the Outer Darkness." The sidebar about it suggests that any ancient language with an evil reputation can be substituted. This sounds a great deal like the Aklo language, spoken by aberrations and evil fey in the Pathfinder RPG, which is in turn drawn from Cthulhu Mythos literature--and, in fact, Aklo is a common language among Pathfinder's Lovecraftian monsters, just as Void Speech is among the Mythos creatures presented in the Tome of Beasts. Deep Speech fills a similar niche in the core 5E rules, but Void Speech is presented here as a distinct language.

Speaking of the Cthulhu Mythos, this book presents several creatures suitable for enhancing that element of the Freeport setting. Deep ones easily could be encountered in or near Freeport, having infiltrated the city or parts of the Serpent's Teeth. The folk of Leng are accomplished travelers, but would probably avoid Freeport in favor of its hated enemy Mazin due to their trade in slaves. More exotic monsters (gugs, mi-go, shoggoths, spiders of Leng, and star-spawn of Cthulhu) would be found in  more distant lands or other worlds, but are frequently sought out by the kinds of mad cultists who plague the City of Adventure.

The Tome contains numerous monsters that could be encountered in Freeport itself or the waters around it. Many new snakes and other reptiles--a defining feature of the Serpent's Teeth region--are included, and the Villain Codex appendix includes a variety of humanoid foes. GMs wishing to further explore The Ironjack Legacy will find a wealth of new constructs, including many types of clockworks. Fabulous aquatic creatures, such as sea dragons, krake spawn, and zaratans, are also well represented here.

Fey in the Serpent's Teeth are almost exclusively reptilian, but other types can be found in the wider World of Freeport, particularly in Rolland, the forest kingdom of the elves on the Continent. The shadow fey elves, and the fey lords and ladies who rule them, are most commonly encountered on the Plane of Shadow (known as the Shadowfell in official 5E sources). This plane likely has links to the Feywild and fey-touched regions of the Material Plane (such as Rolland). The legendary Lord Bonewrack, who dwells in Shadow Freeport, might very well be a powerful shadow fey elf.

This book also contains a wide variety of desert-dwelling creatures suitable for encounters in Hamunaptra (see Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra). Many of these even have a strong Egyptian flavor to them, such as the shabti, subek, and a few new mummy-like undead. In the World of Freeport, the Nurian language mentioned in those entries would correspond to the common tongue of Hamunaptra. 

Monsters inspired by Norse myths (einheriar, jotun giant, ice maiden, lindwurm, rattatosk, rusalka, and valkyrie) would be appropriate for the Viking-like land of Druzhdin, in the far north of the Continent.

The imperial ghouls might be a holdover of the power of the ancient Necro-Kings, driven (literally) underground following those undead warlords' defeat. (See the "Beyond Freeport" chapter in either The Pirate's Guide to Freeport or the Pathfinder edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure.) The ghoul god Mordiggian, mentioned in the "Lords Subterranean" sidebar, gets a chapter in Cults of Freeport.

Finally, some of these creatures can be used for converting monsters from past Freeport adventures or bestiaries, either as-is, or as a starting point:

  • Bastet Temple Cat: Malkin (Creatures of Freeport, Freeport Bestiary)
  • Blemmyes: Blemmyae (3rd Era Freeport CompanionFreeport Bestiary)
  • Clockwork Abomination: Infernal Automaton (Hell in Freeport, Freeport Bestiary)
  • Clockwork Beetle: Goldbug (Freeport: The City of Adventure, both editions)
  • Dopplerat: Doubling Rat (The Lost Island)
  • Gearforged Templar: Manikin (Hell in Freeport)
  • Golem, Hoard: Treasure Golem (Black Sails Over Freeport)
  • Ratfolk: Ratfolk (mentioned in Freeport: The City of Adventure, Pathfinder edition)
  • Ravenfolk: Tengu (Return to Freeport)
  • White Ape: White Gorilla (Black Sails Over Freeport)


Book of Lairs

This book contains two dozen monster lairs, arranged by increasing character level, from 1st to 15th. Each entry is 4 pages long, with one page being a full-color map of the lair. The lairs are a very diverse collection, including numerous dungeons but also city buildings, underwater spaces, forest camps, and a handful of truly exotic locations (stairs going miles up a steep mountainside; a citadel on the edge of space; and even the branches of Yggdrasil). All stand completely on their own, but a few form logical sequels to earlier lairs (such as the stairs and citadel just mentioned). A few of the inhabitants of these  lairs appear in the Monster Manual, but most are pulled from the Tome of Beasts, making that book necessary in order to use these short adventures, unless the DM wishes to repopulate the maps themselves.

A few of the lairs are set in cities, and could be adapted easily for use in Freeport. Others, such as The Pirate's Cove or Temple of the Deep Ones, could be hidden elsewhere in the Serpent's Teeth with little effort. 

Most of the other lairs would best be set on the Continent, or even further away. The forest lairs seem most appropriate to Rolland, while the desert lairs would fit Kizmir or Hamunaptra. The two ghoul adventures could be set almost anywhere in the Underdark, but the DM should give some thought to how the Ghoul Imperium fits into the World of Freeport (see my suggestion above about the Necro-Kings).

Overall, the lairs in this book seem to be interesting short adventures suitable for dropping into a campaign whenever the DM wants a brief change of pace from the regular campaign (or just shorter chapters in a campaign that is largely a series of modules). Most should be playable in a single session, though some higher-level adventures might take longer due to featuring more complex foes. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

My Starfinder Society Minis and Artwork

Zefira Lachlan (L) and Boomer (R)

Last month, I shared some updates to my artwork and LEGO minis for my Pathfinder Society characters, and this time I will present my Starfinder Society character's minis. I have only drawn portraits for two of these SFS PCs, so will include those here rather than splitting them off into a separate post as I did for my PFS artwork. The capsule descriptions below are roughly in the order that I started playing these characters.

Zefira Lachlan (current)

Zefira Lachlan is a daredevil operative with the ace pilot theme. She was the first SFS character I ever played, and is still the highest-level one (10th). She is human, a choice that I made entirely because she was an attempt to recreate my Serenity RPG pilot character in a new system. This Zefira's story has unfolded very differently in a universe that features easy FTL travel, widespread magic use, and hundreds of sentient alien species! She is still a hotshot pilot and a gambler, but has diversified into mastering other forms of movement, high-tech hacking and repair skills, and first contact encounters. 

Zefira started out with the lightest possible armor, so the first minis I built for her used Catwoman's costume and similar bodysuits. (The version at the top of this page uses the Jewel Thief from Minifigures Series 15.) Jessica Alba's look in Dark Angel was my photo reference for both Zefiras, so I gave her a light caramel head and long black hair. She has since upgraded to much better armor (though still light and maneuverable), and I've added a helmet now that she has a jetpack (the latter is Jango Fetts's, from the Star Wars theme). Her current body armor belongs to Proxima Midnight, from the Marvel Avengers line. In a recent column, I briefly complained about the tendency of female minifigures to be cartoonishly sexualized, but this armor's print job does a decent job of making her gender apparent without going overboard--precisely the balance I wanted for Zefira.

Boomer

B-M-R Mk II, known as "Boomer" among their fellow Starfinders, is a nonbinary android technomancer with the scholar theme. When not conducting astronomical surveys or performing repairs and maintenance on Society equipment, they work as a lawyer representing the Society's interests (and those of other androids). They have blue hair with some silver streaks, and some of the glowing blue circuits on their face form runes that serve as their spell cache. (This coloring might have been inspired by her faction leader, who is also a blue-haired android, but if so it wasn't deliberate--I only became truly familiar with Historia-7 much later, once I started GMing for SFS.)

I chose the Galaxy Patrol body (Minifigures Series 7; see the top of this page) because the dark blue with silver accents complemented Boomer's own coloring, and the torso has a tiny "WIZ" printed on its chest. The mini has the Cyborg's head and hair (Series 16), and a neck bracket that holds a 1x1 tile from a microscale Star Wars snowspeeder to suggest the jump jets installed in their suit.

Voran Eclipse

Voran Eclipse is a copaxi, an alien race whose individual members are each composed of a coral-like colonial organism. Because of this, Voran prefers "they" pronouns, but unlike with Boomer, the plural "they" is implied. They are a solarian with the xenoseeker theme, and manifest a solar weapon in the shape of a jagged blade of violet energy, which I've represented by a trans-blue and purple lightning bolt (Star Wars and other themes). Voran's body is a Berserker (one of Hela's minions; Marvel) with slightly spiky Ninjago shoulder plates added. Copaxi do not have faces, per se, so this alien's lightly textured head is turned backwards, with its fangs covered by Maleficent's headdress (Disney Minifigures). This last piece provides the distinctive antlers possessed by all copaxi. Since this picture was taken, Voran has started using a riot shield, for which I use a trans-cyan oval shield (like Qimok's, below) for a science fiction look. Voran actually wears heavy armor, but I prefer to emphasize their copaxi features for their mini.

Copaxi were originally made available for play through a boon earned from playing the scenario that introduced them, but three seasons later, this race is now available for play without a boon. I also earned the race boon for my skittermander Qimok (see below) before that race was made freely available to all. Tekeli-li and Euphemia (also below) belong to races that still require boons, either earned by playing certain scenarios (as I did) or purchased with Achievement Points.

Toknomonicon

Toknomonicon is a gnome envoy with the icon theme. He is a famous musician who uses his celebrity to help polish the Starfinder Society's image, and in return his missions inspire new compositions. As both a feychild gnome and a lay devotee of Shelyn and Arshea, Tokno prefers flamboyant clothing, decorated with feathers and sashes in many colors. He also dyes his hair to match. His mini's orange torso is from a LEGO Universe astronaut; the starburst makes a decent substitute for the Starfinder Society's compass rose. His headpiece is a version of Wyldstyle's striped hair with attached goggles (The LEGO Movie).

Toknomonicon and Tune-Bot 2000

I made Tokno a musician largely because of the "Toon-Bot 2000" boon, which gives him a robot that plays musical accompaniment. It's a largely silly but colorful boon, so despite the Tune-Bot having no stat block, I built one by adding transparent 1x1 pyramids to a boom box. A 1x1 cylinder atop a 2x2 radar dish makes it appear to hover.

Tokno on Wanda

Wanda (from the back)

On a recent adventure, Tokno successfully used his envoy abilities to befriend an alien animal used as a guard beast by the cruel jinsul, while traveling with another Starfinder who had an animal companion mount. This experience inspired him to acquire a companion of his own (and me to look up and learn the animal companion rules). Wanda is a wolliped, a large furry beast with eight legs, four eyes, and large tusks. She is a brick-built model, scaled to fit a 2" x 2" (6 x 6 studs) base. She has a space on her back for Tokno to sit, and a slope brick to suggest a saddle, but I was unable to build a deep recess like a riding animal minifigure would have. (Fortunately, Tokno has short legs!)

Tekeli-li

Tekeli-li is a kiirinta, a small moth-like fey species. He is a star shaman mystic and priest of Desna who tends to a small flock of her worshipers on Absalom Station. (The new "pretty space moth" portrait of Desna in Galactic Magic just makes this choice of god even more perfect for him!) Tekeli-li's head is from one of the insectoid aliens from the Galaxy Squad theme; his torso is from the Alien Trooper (Minifigures Series 13) and his wings are Butterfly Girl's (Series 17). His name's origin is explained here.


Qimok

Qimok is a skittermander soldier with the armor storm fighting style and the gladiator theme. He was trained as a gladiator, but his species' compulsion to help others led him to find work with the Starfinders as protection for the less durable members of a mission's team. Qimok's mini is built around the torso and back assembly from an Outrider alien (Marvel Avengers). This gives him the six arms of a skittermander, though the placement precludes putting second hands on his doshko (a spiked polearm) and laser rifle. He holds a shield in one hand, leaving his sixth hand free to grab, punch, or help, as needed. (Sadly, I forget the source of the head, as I bought it as an individual part, but I believe it is a Ninjago monster. The toothy grin seemed right for a skittermander.)

Euphemia Lasro

Euphemia Lasro is a pahtra, a feline humanoid species. She is an explorer operative and has the spacefarer theme, so is eager to explore new planets and systems for the Society, and is trained to survive in the wilderness. Euphemia was originally inspired by Captain Amelia from Treasure Planet, and I use some 3D artwork of that character for her token in online SFS games. I've only very recently started playing her, so had not built a mini for her until I was preparing for this column. My collection lacked a satisfactory match to Amelia's uniform (despite owning numerous Pirates, Armada, and Pirates of the Caribbean minifigs), but Zori Bliss's body (Star Wars) provided female light armor with enough gold accents to give a similar effect. I added epaulets as a final military touch. Her head is a Lion Tribe character (Legends of Chima) and her hair is a werewolf's (Minifigures Series 4). The rifle is a common Star Wars weapon.

The last three characters here are new, and have not yet debuted in Society play. They are in the wings for when I need to start playing a new 1st-level character, once Tekeli-li, Qimok, and Euphemia (all currently 2nd level) advance out of the lowest subtier. Because of this, their minis, like Euphemia's, are mere days old at the time of this writing.

(L to R): Glaukos, Z'Kar, Talgoth

Glaukos is a stellifera, a psychic cuttlefish-like species who can create a "hydrobody" around themselves for both protection and to allow them to use larger species' equipment (including armor and weapons). Glaukos is a mechanic with an experimental armor prototype and the sensate theme. I will probably give him the phrenic adept archetype at 2nd level, to enhance his race's inborn psychic abilities--which will make him my first Starfinder PC (for Society or not) with an archetype. His bulky space armor (a combination of the Toy Robot, Minifigures Series 6, and Space Miner, Series 12) is topped by a squid-like Alien Trooper head (Series 13), in an attempt to suggest that the Diminutive stellifera is occupying the "head" of a hydrobody wearing the armor. He wields a flame pistol, so I attached the hose from Hazmat Guy's sprayer (Series 4) to the stud on the back of his armor.

Z'Kar is a vesk vanguard. She has the stormrunner theme, so most of her skills are devoted to surviving the harsh climate of her home planet. Her entropic strike class feature makes a manufactured melee weapon less mandatory, so she spent most of her starting credits on the best (light) armor a 1st-level character could afford. She carries a cheap pistol, a few tools, and not much else. As a cave vesk, Z'Kar has pale scales, so I've used a white-skinned Ninjago pirate's head; the printed mask and the helmet help hide the fact that I don't have any better parts for a near-albino reptilian character. Her body is Falcon's (Marvel Avengers), and the "power blast" piece used to suggest her entropic strike's energy is Frozone's (Disney Minifigures, Series 2).

I created Talgoth as an exercise in building a PC with the new precog class in Galactic Magic. He is a half-orc with the cultist theme, hailing from the drow homeworld of Apostae, where he was raised by a blasphemous cult that attempted to sacrifice him to their patron. He should have died then, but instead had visions of the cult's god awakening, and manifested precog powers that allowed him to escape. He now tries to stay far, far away from the drow, and seeks an answer to how the doom he foresaw can be averted. For now, the Starfinder Society seems as good a place as any to do both. As a starting character whose most noteworthy abilities are ephemeral powers, his mini is very simple: light space armor (I forget the theme this torso is from), a LOTR orc head and hair, a hunting rifle, and a knife.

(Previous "Let Me Tell You About My Character..." columns are indexed here.)

TBT: Misuhiro Yoko, a character for BESM

The following Big Eyes Small Mouth character was based on a minor background character from Revolutionary Girl Utena. She was originally posted to a RPG-related LiveJournal group (that I have since lost the name of) back in 2004. 

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Possible Utena Character: Misuhiro Yoko


This character was inspired by the shadow-puppet girls in Revolutionary Girl Utena, with the UFO/alien theme being played up in the latest episodes I've seen (I'm up to #29). I don't know how well she would fit into an Utena game, but if I end up playing in the game a friend of mine plans to run, this is the character I'll propose first.

Note: Because I don't own the BESM Utena book, Yoko was built with BESM 2E Revised, using Teen Romance costs for skills.

Misuhiro Yoko, Ohtomi Academy student, Grade 8 (25 CP)


Stats: Body 4, Mind 7, Soul 4 (15 CP)
Derived Values: ACV 5, DCV 3, HP 40, EP 55, SV 8

Attributes: Appearance 1 (1 CP), Art of Distraction 2 (2 CP), Highly Skilled 1 (1 CP), Own a Big Mecha 2 (Flying Saucer, 25 MP) (5 CP), Personal Gear 1 (1 CP), Shape Change 2 (Change gender only) (3 CP).

Defects: Nemesis (Kiryuu Nanami) (1 BP), Skeleton in the Closet (Alien posing as human) (1 BP), Special Requirement (Lay an egg once a month) (1 BP).

Skills: Biological Sciences 1 (Botany) (2 SP), Disguise 1 (Make-up) (2 SP), Linguistics 2 (Alien [native], English, Japanese) (4 SP), Mechanics 1 (Aeronautics) (3 SP), Melee Attack 1 (Sword) (5 SP), Melee Defend 1 (Sword) (5 SP), Performing Arts 1 (Comedy; Dance) (5 SP), Physical Sciences 1 (Astronomy) (2 SP), Piloting 1 (Spacecraft) (2 SP).

OBM: Flying Saucer (25 MP): HP 60.
Attributes: A.I. 1 (Basic Remote Control: Egg) (1 MP), Extra Capacity 1 (1 MP), Flight 4 (16 MP), Heavy Armor 1 (4 MP), Space Flight 1 (2 MP), Summonable 1 (4 MP), Toughness 1 (4 MP).
Defects: Awkward Size 1 (1 MBP), No Arms (2 MBP), Poor Maneuverability 2 (2 MBP), Restricted Ground Movement (None) (2 MBP), Summoning Object (Egg) (1 MBP).

Personal Gear: fencing sword and protective gear; alien "egg" amulet (summons and controls OBM).

Yoko is a human-like alien who came to Earth about a year ago. She has no training at navigation, and her old, hand-me-down saucer is notoriously clumsy, so she soon crash-landed. She decided that enrolling in the school would be the perfect cover while she repaired her spaceship. She has managed to be assigned to a mostly abandoned building, with space to summon and work on her saucer; she has fixed the crash damage, but has not solved the ship's shaky handling, so dares not leave the relative safety of her new home.

Yoko is an excellent student, who has joined the theater and fencing clubs. She is fairly well-liked, in spike of Nanami-san tormenting her for being "weird"--but Nanami has yet to guess just how weird she really is! As an adolescent member of her alien race, Yoko lays a boldly patterned egg once a month; she can usually hide this process (and the resulting day or two of reduced energy) under the cover of "the monthly miracle." In Episode #27: "Nanami's Egg," Yoko may be responsible for the egg Nanami found; she hoped it would mess with her rival's gullible mind. The eggs are not fertile unless Yoko mates with one of her own kind, and she is not aware of any others currently living on Earth. Her saucer's remote is modeled after one of her eggs, but is far less delicate.

Yoko has one other alien power that she rarely uses, and never where she could be seen: Her species is able to switch gender at will (except when laying eggs). Her male form looks like a nearly identical twin, and she will claim to be her brother "Ryo" if seen in that form. (However, no "Misuhiro Ryo" is enrolled at Ohtori Academy, so "he" must vanish quickly if questioned.) She usually carries a boy's uniform in her duffel if she foresees any need to use this ability.

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I never did get an opportunity to play Yoko in BESM. However, she did form the starting point for a NPC I created for "Grey Angels," the long-running Buffy/Angel series that I joined soon after that original post. In that game, she was an international student from Japan, who was shy and awkward but a genius with math and science. Her secret was that she was a half-Byblos demon (a knowledge-seeking race from the Angel RPG) who had been stranded in this dimension and was trying to reestablish contact with her people. At one point, she managed to rope the superscientist player character into helping her traipse all over campus (and beyond), taking readings with some weird sensory apparatus of her own design, but I don't recall her story ever getting much further than that. 

Since that game, I've read Neil Gaiman's surreal short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" (and more recently, the Dark Horse comic adaptation). If I ever use Yoko in another game, I expect that story to exert some influence on her, too.

The current "reunion arc" of "Grey Angels" has allowed me to revisit Yoko's story indirectly: I have introduced an NPC who is the daughter that Yoko left behind when she left for parts unknown 13 years ago. Sakura Masterson has been fun to play so far, and will likely be one of my main PCs for the "next gen" game we've been bantering about as a way to continue using the setting after the current crises are resolved.

And yes, I did finish watching Revolutionary Girl Utena not long after I finished that original post above. It's a bizarre series that gradually builds up to one of the weirdest climaxes of any anime I've ever seen, but I recall enjoying it, even the inexplicable nonsense parts of it. My "Grey Angels" character Trick Tillinghast, a fencer with a pronounced romantic streak, was very much a fan, and even dressed up as Utena for her masquerade-themed high school prom. In retrospect, her strong affinity with that character should have been a clue--one of many!--that she was not quite as straight as both she and I originally thought. But, hey, it took Utena a while to get there, too, and both were happier once they did.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"Let Me Tell You About My Character..." (An Index)

Abe Sapien (used for my Buffy RPG character
Baz Olmstead when in Triton form)

The following pages are devoted to stories, artwork, and miniatures for my own player characters in various RPGs. They do not include the snippets of character info buried in my RPGaDay, Drawloween, and Inktober posts (except for those on Trick's personal index page), nor do they include PCs or NPCs from games I've GMed.


D&D 5E

Taphos (1/13/2016): Converted to 5E from a friend's homebrew RPG system.

Lendri (1/28/2016): Converted to 5E from a friend's homebrew RPG system.


Grey Angels (Buffy/Angel/Fate)

Nightwatch Dossier: Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast (started 4/17/2020): This page is an index for columns about my PC, Trick Tillinghast, and the "Grey Angels" campaign in general.


Pathfinder Society

How do you go about creating a character for play? (8/30/2018): Uses some of my PFS PCs as examples.

Cassilda Tillinghast (11/13/2018): Art, stats, and bio for my first psychic caster PC.

Pathfinder Iconics Minis (12/5/2018): LEGO minis of the iconic characters for each core class.

A Baker's Dozen of Pathfinders (2/5/2019): Artwork and capsule bios of my PFS characters.

Pathfinder Society LEGO Minis (3/16/2020): Minis for my PFS characters (including new additions since 2019).

"Clever" Character Names Often...Aren't (2/9/2022): Origins of a few of my PFS & SFS PCs' names.

Pathfinder Society Minis and Artwork Update (2/23/2022): Some new artwork, plus my PFS 2E characters' minis.


Pathfinder (other campaigns)

The "Dungeon Interludes" Party (11/3/2016): LEGO minis for one of my wife's campaigns.


Starfinder Society

"Clever" Character Names Often...Aren't (2/9/2022): Origins of a few of my PFS & SFS PCs' names.

My Starfinder Society Minis and Artwork (3/3/2022): Bios and LEGO minis for my SFS PCs to date.